Château d'Époisses

Visit from the Queen of England

In October 1979, Époisses welcomed HM Queen Elizabeth II of England. At the castle, it is with a mixture of joy and anxiety that the de Guitaut family prepares for this extraordinary event. Every detail will count: what to show the Queen? How to receive it? What kind of tea to give her? Which members of the Guitaut family will be present? Will local farmers, unhappy with the massive imports of English mutton, demonstrate and tarnish this visit?

At 4pm, after the tour of the drawing rooms and flats, Her Majesty sits in the Great Hall and is served the tea she usually enjoys at Buckingham Palace. Alas, the cook, fascinated and obviously disturbed by the sight of the English sovereign through the window a few feet away, fills the teapot with boiling water and throws a handful of tea over it. The result is not great. No matter: SM declares … that tea is wonderful!

The visit comes to an end. Mme François Poncet, wife of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, whispers to the Queen’s lady-in-waiting that it is time to leave Époisses and her guests for Beaune, where another visit is to take place. Before that, a short tour of the main courtyard and the terraces is planned. But as soon as the queen and her guests leave the door of the portrait gallery, they discover a sky black with smoke and a pungent smell. For half an hour, the peasants have been burning used tyres around the castle to express their anger. His Majesty, with that inimitable British phlegm, simply says: “Mmm! That smells really good!” A few minutes later, the heavy gate to the forecourt swings open and, preceded by several gendarmes on motorbikes, Queen Elizabeth’s black Rolls sets off down the road towards Beaune.